Keynote International Speakers

Sarah Witham Bednarz
Professor Emerita
Texas A&M University

Geographys Secret Powers to Save the World

Geographers today are expressing growing interest in the social and political development of children and youth. Much of this concern is the result of the worldwide turn to the right and consequent disquiet about the conditions under which many young people struggle to achieve equality, inclusion, and a sense of personal agency. 

Geography educators have shared these concerns but have done relatively little research to explore the ways that learning geography can empower youth to develop a sense of self, social responsibility, and to raise civic consciousness. In what ways can geography educators help their students to become empowered to participate actively in society?  In what ways can geography educators, through curricula and instructional materials, contribute to creating societies that appreciate, respect, and capitalize on difference? How do geographic knowledge, skills, and practices develop across individuals, settings, and time and how can these understandings be used in transformative ways? We know from research how to teach for transfer. Can these same pedagogic strategies be applied to assist young people to bridge the gaps between knowing and doing? 

Geography educators hone in their pupils two distinct but equally powerful ways of thinking: spatial thinking and geographic thinking. These are our secret powers.This talk focuses on specific and intentional ways that spatial and geographic thinking can effect positive change in individuals. First, I discuss ways that spatial thinking can address gender inequality by closing the gap between men and women in this cognitive arena. Second, I examine strategies to strengthen curricula and instructional materials by applying research from the learning sciences about how individuals develop and refine their opinions and perspectives. Third, I explore how spatial and geographic thinking, in combination with social media and geospatial technologies, can be used to create active, participatory, and emancipated members of society.  Finally, I call for a re-envisioning of geography education to focus on teaching for a world that fully appreciates difference as much as in and about our world. 

Doris Wastl-Walter
Professor, Institute of Geography
University of Bern

Gouverning Diversity - Safeguarding Democracy in Multhiethnic States

The topic of the presentation will be the relationship between governmentality and spatiality. We will first discuss the concepts of ‘demos’ and ‘citizenship’ and their consequences for inclusion, exclusion, minority rights, and in particular the challenges of global migration. We will then focus on decisionmaking, the spatiality of governance, and the different tiers of participation. Finally, we will critically examine several cases based on this theoretical framework including multiethnic states, autonomy movements and battles to create new and independent states.

Shuaib Lwasa
Professor, Department of Geography
Makerere University

The State of African Geography

Michael F Goodchild
Emeritus Professor of Geography
University of California, Santa Barbara

Geography and GISCIENCE

Geographers have long argued about the intellectual merits of geographic information systems, and about their relevance to the discipline. While some of these issues have been resolved, the place of GIS in geography is still contested. Recent trends have perhaps drawn GIS closer to computer science, and GIS is today being taught in many disciplines besides geography. If there ever was a case that geography was where GIS belonged, that battle is long since lost. I present a personal and contemporary view of the difference between GIS and GIScience, the importance of geography to GIScience, and the importance of GIScience to geography. This perspective is likely to grow in significance as we move into the age of big data and artificial intelligence.

Jérôme Dupras
Professor of Natural Sciences
Université du Québec en Outaouais

Economy, Ecology and Ecosystem Services

Margo Greenwood
Professor, First Nation Studies

Indigenous Studies

Sarah Hunt
Assistant Professor, First Nation and Indigenous Studies

Indigenous Studies

Annie Ross
Professor, First Nation Studies
Simon Fraser University

Indigenous Studies

Michel Allard
Professor of Geography
Université Laval

Nunavik - Land of Change

Nunavik, or “Great-Land”, is an Inuit territory located north of the 55th parallel in Quebec. Although its first inhabitants arrived there about 4000 years ago, it was only instituted as a political territory in 1975 following the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement - a major treaty signed between the Inuit, the Cree, and the governments of Canada and Quebec. Established on the Canadian Shield and surrounded by cold seas (Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay), its relief includes vast plateaus, hilly terrains and large river valleys. The landscape is dotted with lakes and crossed by many rivers. It stretches over seven degrees of latitude across a significant bioclimatic gradient that extends from the boreal forest to the tundra. This gradient corresponds with the presence of discontinuous and continuous permafrost.

Like the other subarctic regions of the circumpolar world, Nunavik is undergoing major changes while its rapidly growing population faces the double challenge of global industrialization and climate change. Beginning in the middle of the 20th century with the settling of the Inuit in permanent villages, mutations of the territory have accelerated over time and are easily perceptible in the eyes of a diligent spectator. Over the past thirty years, the climate has warmed by more than two degrees, causing shrub expansion in the tundra, permafrost degradation in the discontinuous zone, and significant changes to the ecosystem. In that period, caribou herds passed through a full life cycle - increasing to more than a million animals in the 1990s before beginning a decline to near extinction in recent years. Rich in mineral resources, the region has seen the establishment of two important nickel mines that has resulted in major socio-economic change. The human population has doubled and is still expanding rapidly. Communities have grown, a network of airports has been built, and television and the Internet have promoted the inclusion of Inuit communities in the global village. A proactive Inuit conservation policy has concurrently promoted the creation of protected areas and national parks. However, traditional occupations - hunting, fishing, gathering - and the Inuit's attachment to their territory remain fundamental to life.

If there is a constant, it is the recognition that the transformations caused by climate change and globalisation are recreating the physical and human landscapes of Nunavik.

Michel Allard is professor of Geography at Université Laval and recipient of the Polar Medal awarded by the Governor General of Canada.